The Saint Martial School was a medieval school of music composition centered in the Abbey of Saint Martial, Limoges, France. Most active from the 9th to 12th centuries, some scholars describe its practices, music, and manuscripts as 'Aquitanian'.[1] It is known for the composition of tropes, sequences, and early organum. In this respect, it was an important precursor to the Notre Dame School. Adémar de Chabannes and his uncle Roger de Chabannes who introduced Adémar in the craftship of a notating cantor, were important proponents of this school whose hands had only be recently discovered by studies of James Grier between 1995 and 2005. They invented a local variant of a vertically precise organisation of notation and a new form of local tonary, they reorganised existing chant manuscripts, and they developed the libellum structure of a new type of sequentiary troper whose organisation was new at their time, but played a key role for the Saint Martial school.

History of the Abbey Saint Martial de Limoges

Sequence composed by the Plagi proti intonation. Sequentiary from Aquitaine, end 10th century (F-Pn lat. 1118, fol. 114r)

Many of the modern musicological studies concerning a "Saint Martial School" focus on four manuscripts with remarkably innovative compositions for the 12th century.[1] It is often assumed that these fragments derived from different Southern French monasteries, despite the lack of cantor attributions in the rubrics. However, Sarah Fuller has suggested that this may not be the case, discussing the "myth of a Saint Martial school", where she suggests that the fragments are rather a collective activity of the Abbey's librarians than a didactic activity of the Abbey's cantors.[2] These manuscripts (F-Pn lat. 1139, 3549, 3719, and GB-Lbl Add MS 36881) were, it would seem, more likely collected and bound together by the librarian Bernard Itier, than composed or compiled at St Martial itself.[3] Despite the concordances between these manuscripts, the collection includes many variants. The repertory combines modern forms of poetry with modern forms of musical composition, consisting of settings of proses, tropes, sequences, liturgical dramas, and organa. Even a polyphonic setting of an epistle recitation survives as florid organum. Other modern musicological studies have attempted to identify unifying centre for these sources, such as Cluny rather than Limoges, and with reference to the Cluniac Monastic Association, Fleury and Paris (especially the Notre-Dame School), the Abbey of Saint Denis, and the Abbey Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. Questions about periphery and centre[4] may be answered by the research of political and church history relative to Cluny.[5][6] In contrast to Fuller's study, James Grier's recent examination of earlier monophonic Proser-Sequentiaries suggests that they were created in the scriptorium of the Abbey Saint-Martial 100 years earlier (than the fore-mentioned fragments including polyphonic compositions), explicitly for liturgical use at Limoges, by Roger and Adémar de Chabannes.[7] The concept of a local school of cantors who documented their innovations in newly designed liturgical books with the libellum structure—later imitated elsewhere (even in the Parisian Magnus liber organi)—is therefore still credible; at least for the 11th century.

Roger and Adémar de Chabannes and the troper-sequentiary

Adémar de Chabannes was educated as a cantor and poet by his uncle Roger de Chabannes. The manuscripts written or revised by Roger de Chabannes together with his nephew, were created in the form of troper-prosers and sequentiaries with a new diastematic form of neume notation (F-Pn lat. 1240, 1120, 1121, 909),[8] which became soon much more popular than the letter notation of William of Volpiano. They belonged to a new type of chant book which was no longer simply a liturgical book, but rather collected new poetry based on liturgical forms (in music as well as in poetry). This new form of chant book consisted of several books ("libelli") - the "proser" or "troper" for verses and tropes, the "sequentiary" for prosulae and sequences (troped elaborated alleluia refrains), the processional with processional antiphons, the offertorial for offertories etc. and the tonary.[9] This new structural form soon spread beyond Aquitaine becoming popular in France and Normandy, due in part to the Cluniac Monastic Order, which was expanding its influence and adopted the work of the school of cantors at the Abbey of Saint-Martial for liturgical use.[6][10] Cluny Abbey was founded by William I and already in Adémar's time its laic association had gained its power over more and more abbeys, their cantors and their scriptoriums. Adémar's fruitless efforts to become an abbot at Saint Cybard of Angoulême was a personal disappointment, but his ambitions were quite symptomatic for monasteries under Cluniac influence.

According to James Grier, Adémar de Chabannes also contributed within two troper-sequentiaries (F-Pn lat. 1121, 909) which have the finest tonaries of the region. He regards this late activity as a craftship which he learnt from his uncle, while he was revising older manuscripts, often by adding modal signatures to earlier manuscripts. But the intonation formulas of the tonaries had as well an explicit creative function, which can be demonstrated by an earlier manuscript already written in diastematic neumes. Some composed sequences of this earlier troper-proser-sequentiary (F-Pn lat. 1118, fol. 114r) are nothing else than a simple repetition of a more and more elaborated intonation, but the verse units cut the melodic motive into different parts, often against its modal structure. These early permutation technique already anticipated later isorhythmic composition techniques.

Early polyphony and the Cluniac influence on liturgical reforms

The scriptorium of Limoges continued its activities after Adémar's death in 1034, but it was no longer the only scriptorium of the Limousin diocese.[11] William Sherrill made the hypothesis, that the Gradual of St Yrieix with Gallican preces in its appendix (F-Pn lat. 903) has not been written at Limoges, but by the cantors of the Abbey itself which was possible since it promoted as canon chapter during the second half of the 11th century and depended directly of the Monastery of St Martin at Tours. He even went so far to assume that this gradual has copied from Beneventan graduals, because the included Cassinese chants for the patronal feast of St Benedict, and might have served to copy for the gradual of Gaillac, while the latter could have served to write the later gradual for Toulouse.[12][13] In this comparison the liturgy of the Saint-Martial Gradual (F-Pn lat. 1132) is rather dependent on Cluniac reforms and especially the one of Narbonne, written by the end of the 11th century for the use at the cathedral, resembles to many others written with the same notation in Spain after the conquest of Northern Andalusia, when Aquitanian aristocrats had been related with the Castilian family by marriage.

Polyphony was neither invented at Limoges nor did it appear the first time in the notation of its scriptorium. An oral tradition of a polyphonic performance can be traced back to the time, when the Musica enchiriadis had been written,[14] and Adémar was a contemporary of Guido of Arezzo, who described in his treatise Micrologus a similar practice as "diaphonia" (discant), which already allowed to sing more than one note against the cantus during cadences ("occursus"). Notated evidence of alternative practices, where the organal voice changes between different strategies of heterophony (parallel and counter movement) and holding notes which support the modal colour of the cantus, can be found as later added exemplification in monophonic manuscripts of the Abbeys in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Fleury, and Chartres.[15] One example concerning the tradition of Fleury Abbey is an addition of an organal voice (similar to the organum notation of the Winchester Troper) in a hagiographic Lectionary (V-CVbav Cod. Reg. lat. 586, fol. 87v) for three Mass graduals «Viderunt omnes» (Christmas), «Omnes de Saba» (Epiphany), and «Gloriosus deus» (Fabianus and Sebastianus). The local style of the cantors were counter movement and holding notes with the syntactic structure underlined by occursus endings. The only exception was Winchester Cathedral, where a systematic collection of organa can be found in the troper part—the so-called "Winchester Troper".[16] The earliest polyphony developed in a rather secular context and Cluny played a prominent role in it.

What was exactly the role of the Abbey of Saint Martial for a school of anonymous cantors associated with Aquitanian polyphony?

The earliest evidence can be found in an older Troper-Proser with libellum structure (F-Pn lat. 1120). In some late additions cantors made exemplifications of a polyphonic performance of organum similar to those additions in the Gradual of the Abbey of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (F-Pn lat. 12584, fol. 306). Under Cluniac influence the latter abbey developed an extravagant liturgy since 1006, when it was ruled by a new Abbot, who was sent from Cluny, where he had served as a cantor.[17] The polyphony can be easily recognized, because the notator used a method similar to a modern score.

There had been other methods as well. Some later additions in the early Troper-Proser (F-Pn lat. 1120) on folio 73v and on 77v look monophonic on the first sight, but the melody is organized in pairs so that each verse of it has to be sung together with an organum voice. The organum voice simply sings the text of the first verse with the melody notated with the text of the second one, and the cantus does vice versa repeat the melody of the first verse, while the singers applies it to the text of the second verse. On folio 81r and 105r we have three early examples of later added florid organum. Its notation technique had already developed in the monophonic manuscripts notated in parts by Adémar, in cases where the scribe of the text did not leave enough space for the neumes. The notator already used vertical strokes, which do indicate how the melismas have been coordinated with the syllables. On folio 105 recto, a «Benedicamus domino» was notated separately from the florid organum.

Both techniques of polyphonic performance, the punctum contra punctum (discant) and florid organum as puncta contra punctum have been once discussed in a 15th-century treatise from Italy, which had been obviously associated with the treatise "Ad organum faciendum" of Aquitanian provenance.[18]

The manuscripts of Aquitanian polyphony

In comparison with the few late traces of a polyphonic singing in the earlier manuscripts, the four main manuscripts and a lot of similar manuscripts of Aquitaine are so full of later developments, that their manifold forms, the calligraphy, the illuminations, and the poetry have not lost their attraction for philologists and musicians.

A well-known example is «Stirps iesse», which is nothing else than a florid organum over a «Benedicamus domino» cantus which was widespread within the Cluniac Monastic Association including the Magnus liber organi of the Notre-Dame school. As «Benedicamus domino» verses concluded almost every divine service, Cluniac cantors were supposed to know a great variety of them. Many of them had been new compositions and became favored subjects for new experiments in poetry and musical composition.[19] Florid organum itself like any tropus can be regarded in two ways, as a useful exercise to memorize a certain cantus precisely note by note on the one hand or, as a very refined and embellished performance by a well-skilled soloist or precentor. «Stirps iesse» was actually a combination of both, as a Benedicamus performed «cum organo» it was rather a longer performance during an important liturgical feast, but the troped organal voice added a certain Marian poem to it, which fixed it within the week between Christmas and New Year.

The manuscripts "Saint-Martial C" und "D" even were nothing more than additional quaternia within a homiletic collection of sermons. Most of the manuscripts with polyphonic compositions are not just from the Abbey of Saint-Martial at Limoges, but as well from other places of Aquitaine. It is unknown to what extent these manuscripts reflect the products of Saint Martial in particular, it rather seems that there were prosar collections from various places in Southern France.

During the 12th century, only a very few composers of the school are known by name, and the new poetic experiments were not only in Latin, they obviously inspired as well courtly poetry of the Troubadours. Even if St-Martial poetry (versus, tropes and sequences) was almost entirely in Latin, some melodies collected in the manuscripts of the Abbey were also used to compose Old Occitan poetry. Before the collections of the chansonniers, there are already contemporary Old Occitan songs with musical notation for all stanzas which has been written at the scriptory of Saint-Martial Abbey like O Maria, Deu maire.[20] It shows that aristocratic circles present at the Abbey have been closely related to those of the troubadours.



  1. ^ a b Planchart & Fuller 2001.
  2. ^ Fuller 1979.
  3. ^ Gushee (1964) emphasized the fragmentary nature of these sources. They employ a "libellum" structure, often bound together from individual quaternio gatherings of different ages (F-Pn lat. 1139), unlike other sources during this period where polyphonic pieces are most often found added, by a later hand, at the end of quaternios of older monophonic manuscripts.
  4. ^ Arlt 1975.
  5. ^ Huglo 1982b.
  6. ^ a b Gillingham 2006.
  7. ^ Grier 1995.
  8. ^ Grier 2006.
  9. ^ See Helmut Spanke,Spanke 1931aSpanke 1931bSpanke 1932 who studied the poetic innovations of the manuscripts of the Abbey of Saint Martial.
  10. ^ Boynton 2006.
  11. ^ Herzo (1966) has already made a comparison of 5 Aquitanian graduals and found two groups—the one of St Martial of Limoges (F-Pn lat. 1132) and the Cathedral of Narbonne (F-Pn lat. 780) and the other between the Cathedral of Toulouse (British Library, Harley 4951), Saint Michel-de-Gaillac (F-Pn lat. 776), and Saint Yrieix (903).
  12. ^ Sherrill 2011, pp. 158–162.
  13. ^ Concerning the tonaries Michel Huglo (NGrove) had so far regarded the tonaries of the cathedral rite around Toulouse as one group together with F-Pn lat. 1118, but according to James Grier the latter already influenced Adémar's tonaries, because it has later additions from his hand concerning his new liturgy dedicated to Saint Martial.
  14. ^ Varelli (2013) found recently practical examples of this early organum practice which he dated back to the 10th century.
  15. ^ See Wulf Arlt's reconstruction in Rankin.Rankin & Hiley 1993, "Stylistic layers in eleventh-century polyphony": 102–141 A systematic discussion of the various treatises and of the examples given in chant manuscripts is offered by Fuller (1990).
  16. ^ See the reconstructions of the Winchester Troper organa by Susan Rankin, and those of the French organa by Wulf Arlt.Rankin & Hiley 1993
  17. ^ Huglo (1982b) also discussed hagiographic sources which document, that this change caused several conflicts and that part of the monastic community left the Abbey.
  18. ^ In a recent critical edition, Meyer (2009) could prove that certain parts of it can be traced back to the 12th century and belong to an abbot and cantor Guy de Cherlieu of the Cistercian reform group. In fact, there is no evidence that "discantus" and "organum" have been distinguished this way already during the 11th century. Guido of Arezzo's term was "diaphonia", about 1100 the term "organum" became more common for all kind of polyphony without being specified whether it was florid or simple like in "diaphonia". Concerning Cecily Sweeney's hypothesis that the Cistercian reform prohibited polyphonic performance of liturgical chant, which could not convince Christian Meyer, we cannot exclude the possibility that Guy de Cherlieu's ideas failed to convince Bernard of Clairvaux and other reformers. Nevertheless, even in that case an implicit prohibition had no real effect on the liturgical tradition of Cistercians, because one of the earliest treatises dedicated to the practice of fauxbourdon and its ornaments has a Cistercian provenance and the Las Huelgas Codex rather prove that Cistercian customs were also here not so far from Cluniac ones.
  19. ^ The aforementioned folio of the Gradual-Antiphoner of the Abbey Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (F-Pn lat. 12584) is probably one of the earliest sources for this popular tune, which seemed just to be an intonation formula of plagis protus with a final melisma.
  20. ^ F-Pn lat. 1139, fol. 49r.


  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 776". Gradual of Saint-Michel-de-Gaillac (Albi, about 1079). Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 780". Gradual and Tonary from the Cathedral of SS Just et Pastor, Narbonne (late 11th century).
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 903". Gradual of the Abbey Saint Yrieix near Limoges (11th century).
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 909". Troper, Sequentiary, and Tonary of St. Martial de Limoges (1028). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1085". Abridged Antiphonary from the church St. Salvator Mundi, St. Martial Abbey in Limoges, with later modal classifications by Roger & Adémar de Chabannes (late 10th century). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1118". Troper, Tonary, Sequentiary and Proser from Southwestern France, Région d'Auch (987–96). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1120". Troper, Proser, Processional of St. Martial de Limoges (late 10th century). Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1121". Troper, Sequentiary, and Tonary of St. Martial de Limoges, Adémar de Chabannes (ca. 1025). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1132". Gradual-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (late 11th century). Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1135". Sequentiary, Offertorial, and Troper of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th century). Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1139". Troper-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th & 13th century) [St-M A]. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1240". Troper from the church St. Salvator Mundi, St. Martial Abbey in Limoges with neumes added by Adémar de Chabannes (933-936). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 3549, fol. 149-169". Troper-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th century) [St-M B].
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 3719, fol. 15r-100v". Troper-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th century) [St-M С]. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  • "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 12584". Gradual, Antiphonary and Processionnal of the Abbey Saint-Maur-des-Fossés near Paris (11th century). Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  • "London, British Library, Add MS 36881". Polyphonic fragment of the region of Apt and South Catalonia, small south French-Catalan square notes on 7 to 9 staves of 4 or 5 dry-point lines (12th and 13th century) [St-M D]. See description at DIAMM.
  • "London, British Library, Ms. Harley 4951". Gradual of Saint-Etienne of Toulouse, including a tonary (end of 11th century). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  • "Rome, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, Cod. Reg. lat. 586, fol. 87v". Hagiographic Lectionary of the Abbey Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire with a notated organal voice for R. Viderunt omnes..., R. Omnes de saba venient..., R. Gloriosus Deus in sanctis (early 11th century).


  • Arlt, Wulf (1975). "Peripherie und Zentrum vier Studien zur ein- und mehrstimmigen Musik des hohen Mittelalters". Forum Musicologicum — Basler Studien zur Musikgeschichte. 1: 169–222.
  • Boynton, Susan (2006). Shaping a Monastic Identity: Liturgy & History at the Imperial Abbey of Farfa, 1000-1125. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801443817.
  • Danckwardt, Marianne (1999). "Das "Stirps iesse" der Handschrift Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin 3549 und sein Verhältnis zum Saint-Martial- und Notre-Dame-Repertoire". In Bernd Edelmann; Sabine Kurth (eds.). Compositionswissenschaft: Festschrift Reinhold und Roswitha Schlötterer zum 70. Geburtstag. Augsburg: Wissner. pp. 11–30.
  • Fuller, Sarah Ann (1969). Aquitanian polyphony of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Berkeley: University of California.
  • Fuller, Sarah (1979). "The Myth of "Saint Martial" Polyphony – A Study of the Sources". Musica Disciplina. 33: 5–26. JSTOR 20532213.
  • Fuller, Sarah (1990). "Early Polyphony". In Richard L. Crocker; David Hiley (eds.). The Early Middle Ages to 1300. New Oxford History of Music. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford UP. pp. 485–556. ISBN 978-0193163294.
  • Gillingham, Bryan (2006). Music in the Cluniac Ecclesia: A Pilot Project. Ottawa: Institute of Mediaeval Music. ISBN 978-1896926735.
  • Grier, James (1995). "Roger de Chabannes (d. 1025), Cantor of St Martial, Limoges". Early Music History. 14: 53–119. doi:10.1017/s0261127900001443. JSTOR 853930. S2CID 193229234.
  • Grier, James (2003). "The Music is the Message: Music in the Apostolic Liturgy of Saint Martial". Plainsong and Medieval Music. 12 (1): 1–14. doi:10.1017/S0961137103003012. S2CID 162554319.
  • Grier, James (2005). "The Musical Autographs of Adémar de Chabannes (989–1034)". Early Music History. 24: 125–168. doi:10.1017/S0261127905000100. S2CID 194078301.
  • Grier, James (2006a). "The Music is the Message II: Adémar de Chabannes' Music for the Apostolic Office of Saint Martial". Plainsong and Medieval Music. 15 (1): 43–54. doi:10.1017/S0961137106000246. S2CID 162870563.
  • Grier, James (2006). The Musical World of a Medieval Monk: Adémar de Chabannes in eleventh-century Aquitaine. Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521856287.
  • Grier, James (2013). "Adémar de Chabannes (989–1034) and musical literacy". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 66 (3): 605–638. doi:10.1525/jams.2013.66.3.605.
  • Gushee, Marion S (1964). Romanesque Polyphony — A Study of the Fragmentary Sources (Thesis). Yale University.
  • Hankeln, Roman (1999). Die Offertoriumsprosuln der aquitanischen Handschriften: Voruntersuchungen zur Edition des aquitanischen Offertoriumscorpus und seiner Erweiterungen. Regensburger Studien zur Musikgeschichte. Tutzing: Schneider. ISBN 978-3-7952-0973-5.
  • Herzo, Anthony Marie (1966). Five Aquitanian graduals, their mass propers and Alleluia cycles (Thesis). Los Angeles: University of Southern California.
  • Huglo, Michel (1955). "Les Preces des Graduels aquitains empruntées à la liturgie hispanique". Hispania Sacra. 8: 361–383.
  • Huglo, Michel (1982a). "La tradition musicale aquitaine. Répertoire et notation". Liturgie et Musique (IXe-XIVe S.). Cahiers de Fanjeaux. 17: 253–268.
  • Huglo, Michel (1982b). "Les débuts de la polyphonie à Paris : les premiers organa parisiens". Forum Musicologicum — Basler Studien zur Musikgeschichte. 3: 94–163.
  • Kaden, Christian (1985). "Notation - frühe Mehrstimmigkeit - Komposition". Musiksoziologie. Wilhelmshaven: Heinrichshofen. pp. 334–447. ISBN 978-3795904463.
  • Karp, Theodore (1967). "St. Martial and Santiago de Compostela: An Analytical Speculation". Acta Musicologica. 39 (3/4): 144–160. doi:10.2307/932350. JSTOR 932350.
  • Karp, Theodore (1992). The polyphony of Saint Martial and Santiago de Compostela. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Meyer, Christian (2009). Le traité dit de Saint-Martial revisité et réédité. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  • Planchart, Alejandro Enrique; Fuller, Sarah (2001). "St Martial". Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.40296. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Rankin, Susan; Hiley, David, eds. (1993). Music in the Medieval English Liturgy. Plainsong & Mediaeval Music Society Centennial Essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0193161252.
  • Sherrill, William Manning (2011). The Gradual of St. Yrieix in eleventh-century Aquitaine (Thesis). Austin: University of Texas at Austin. hdl:2152/ETD-UT-2011-05-2991.
  • Spanke, Helmut (1931a). "St. Martial-Studien – Ein Beitrag zur frühromanischen Metrik". Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur. 54 (5/6): 282–317. JSTOR 40615184.
  • Spanke, Helmut (1931b). "St. Martial-Studien. Ein Beitrag zur frühromanischen Metrik (Fortsetzung)". Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur. 54 (7/8): 385–422. JSTOR 40615197.
  • Spanke, Helmut (1932). "St. Martialstudien II". Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur. 56 (7/8): 450–478. JSTOR 40615328.
  • Treitler, Leo (1964). "The Polyphony of St. Martial". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 17 (1): 29–42. doi:10.2307/830028. JSTOR 830028.
  • Treitler, Leo (2003). With Voice and Pen — Coming to know Medieval Song and How it was made. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198166443.
  • Varelli, Giovanni (2013). "Two Newly Discovered 10th-Century Organa". Early Music History. 32: 277–315. doi:10.1017/S0261127913000053. S2CID 191495159.